by Michael P Coleman

17613 0A lot has been written and said about Viola Davis’ stunning performance in the Denzel Washington-directed Fences. Her name is being mentioned as a potential Oscar contender.

Every word you read about Davis’ Oscar prospects is absolutely true. The actress is incendiary on screen, forcing you to feel every emotion her character displays as she manages the ups and downs of a life that may not have been lived to its fullest.

It’s been a long time since I saw a movie theatre crowd applaud after a performance. In Fences, Davis delivers a crying, knee-buckling, nose-running monologue that’s not to be missed. It left every woman cheering midway, and earned an ovation from the entire audience after Davis was done.

But to talk about Davis too much is, perhaps, not giving enough attention to Washington, who also stars in the movie.

For the full review, please visit Eurthisnthat.com.

by Michael P Coleman

I still remember hearing Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” for the first time.  I was six years old, it was a version by Diana Ross & the Supremes, and I thought the song was racist.

Don’t judge.  I was a late bloomer. 

I was a few years older — eight or nine, maybe — when I realized that the classic described a dream of a different kind of “white Christmas” than I’d imagined.  That revelation was a shock — kinda like the one I had twenty years later when I realized that, yes Virginia, the soulful Bobby Caldwell, who had just released an ironically scorching version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Vanessa Williams, was (and still is) a self-described "cracker." 

“Do I sound terribly white?” Caldwell laughed by phone, after I told him that his speaking voice differed more than slightly from his Peabo Bryson-eque singing voice.  “My influences are broad.  We’re talking Motown to Philly to Muscle Shoals to the Beatles to Steely Dan…all kinds of stuff.  As a child, I was a huge Sinatra fan, and then around the age of nine or 10 I started to get into Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, The Spinners, The Dells, Earth Wind & Fire, all of that stuff.” 

Caldwell, 65 burst onto the national scene in the late 1970s as the voice behind the massive R & B and pop hit “Won’t You Won’t Do For Love.”  He’s stayed true to his soulful craft over the years, releasing an impressive collection of R & B - steeped songs including impressive covers of Etta James’ “At Last” and The Emotions’ “Don’t Ask My Neighbor” while earning a solid base of devoted, and largely African American, fans. 

For the full article, please visit SacCulturalHub.com/News/.

mahalia jackson 300If you don’t know Mahalia Jackson, you don’t know gospel music. If you’ve come in contact with Jackson along the way, perhaps as she told you about that great gettin’ up morning, you’ll be thrilled to listen to the 22 tracks on this superb new Mahalia Jackson album, Moving On Up A Little Higher.

That’s right. A NEW Mahalia Jackson album. As her glorious contralto was silenced in 1972, at the age of 59, and with the abundance of Jackson collections that have been released over the years, who knew that an entire album worth of her performances, from her artistic peak, was waiting to be heard?

All of the new album’s 22 tracks are seeing the light of day for the very first time. Half of the album was buried in audio libraries in New Orleans and at Indiana University. Other tracks were recorded as Jackson stretched out during rehearsals. Still others were recorded live in 1957 at the Newport Jazz Festival, a year before her landmark recording from the next year’s event would make Jackson an international star.

For the complete article, visit EurWeb.com/News.

Niggers are all over the place these days.

Yes, I said “nigger,” not “the N word” or “nigga” or “n****r” or some other version of the word that the overwhelming majority of media outlets routinely use in lieu of THE word. I say if we’re going to use the word, let’s use it.

Or more aptly…let’s not. Ever. In any form.

I remember when only Richard Pryor could get away with regularly using the word “nigger.” He even named one of his standup albums Supernigger and sold millions of albums in the process.

My mother didn’t allow that album or any of Pryor’s others in our home, but when Mom was at work Dad howled with laughter to his contraband Pryor cassettes and 8 tracks.

When George Jefferson said “nigger” on the classic sitcom The Jeffersons, millions of viewers laughed while advertisers threatened to drop the show.  Then, in the mid-1980s, Eddie Murphy picked up in feature films and standup specials where Pryor had left off, and the word’s use started to creep.

By the 90s’ torrent of hip hop and rap, use of the word had spread broadly. “Nigger” was on a roll! And now, we’re living with a whole generation of people who grew up hearing the word used very casually — and we need to be ashamed of ourselves.

Today, if anything makes me crazier than pulling up to a red light next to someone blaring “nigger”-infused music from their car speakers, it’s the increasing acceptance and use of the word in the media.

Just last weekend, Saturday Night Live’s Michael Che let the word rip at the Weekend Update desk during the show’s season premiere.  (SNL has a history with the word, as Chevy Chase called Pryor a “nigger” during the show’s inaugural season.) Also last weekend, the premiere of Netflix’s new Luke Cage series pummeled viewers with the word, including a scene where Alfre Woodard’s character expresses her disdain for its use.

“You know I despise that word,” she sneered, only to have the character she was speaking to say “I know. It’s easy to underestimate a nigga.” Over the course of the series’ first seven episodes, the word is used over two dozen times.

I’ve heard the argument about the difference between “nigger” and “nigga,” but I believe that just as when I use “brother” or “brutha” to describe another man of color in a loving, positive way, “nigger” in any form is abhorrent, vile, and without a home in civil, modern discourse. I don’t think of the word “nigger” in ANY form as a term of endearment of ANY kind.

I’ve also heard the argument about “taking the word back” from our oppressors. To that argument I’ll simply reply with another obscenity: bullshit.  We are making it easy for white folks to use pejoratives when describing us, and by sanitizing the word “nigger” and using it so effortlessly, we are sanctioning its use by others.  

Maybe I feel so strongly about it because I still remember the first time it was used to describe me. Somewhat like your first kiss, you never forget the first time you’re called a “nigger.”

 I was in my late teens and finishing up a college internship in Bettendorf, Iowa. I’d gone shopping at the Duck Creek Mall. In retrospect, the name of the place should have tipped me off that I was far from the ‘hood.

As I walked through the mall’s parking lot to my car, four or five young, white The Dukes of Hazard rejects pulled up to me in a symbolically white midsize pickup truck and started a conversation with “Get out of town, nigger!” This was in broad daylight, in a crowded parking lot, and believe me, the fellas were using their outside voices.

An almost debilitating cocktail of terror and rage swelled inside me, but I somehow managed to suppress the former. I’d always heard that dogs could smell fear, and I’d always suspected the same of bigots. I lashed out with a few choice epithets of my own (my parents had taught me well) and luckily, the good ol’ boys laughed and drove off, leaving a trail of cigarette smoke and hatred.

I was left standing in that parking lot with a taste of what civil rights workers — those heroes who had paved the way for me to complete a college internship in Bettendorf, Iowa — must have gone through. I’ve never heard the word “nigger” or any of its derivations the same way again.

Most media outlets can’t — or won’t — report on incidents of the word having been used without resorting to diluted, softer terms like “the N word” or  “n****r.”  That industry-wide practice is profoundly hypercritical. The Jewish Lorne Michaels, SNL’s executive producer, can approve “nigger”’s inclusion to Michael Che’s script for a live comedy show on NBC, but the next day, the network’s own news division resorts to the term “the N word” in talking about the broadcast.

My initial experience of having been called a “nigger” — and a few subsequent experiences — just don’t have the same punch if I sanitize the word. When I have spoken of having been verbally assaulted, I don’t quote the hillbillies of Duck Creek Mall as saying “Get out of town, N-Word!” The heinous act itself deserves fair, accurate reporting. If someone can say the word “nigger,” I can tell people it was said. And media should, too.

The word “nigger” is rooted in the very foundation of the darkest chapter in our nation’s history. I imagine it was the last word heard by men before they were lynched, often set on fire and torched to death or hung from trees — or both.

Routinely, large crowds of cheering white onlookers watched those executions smiling…laughing…and chanting…“Nigger!”

“Nigger!”

“Nigger!”

 
 

And just as those thousands of lynchings were executed without remorse, we should send the word “nigger” and all of its variants to their final resting place.

Immediately.

Let’s lynch “nigger.” For good.

 

MPCBatman2015This blog was written by Michael P Coleman. Connect with him at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP

by Michael P Coleman

Jody Watley told me a few weeks ago that she had a few upcoming, “exciting” projects with her group Shalamar Reloaded.

Having just seen the group’s new video, “exciting” has got to be the understatement of the decade.  

“The Mood” is a classic, throwback mid-tempo R & B jam that will be in my music library as soon as it’s available on iTunes on October 14. The video features a characteristically gorgeous Watley (does that woman age?), along with Rosero McCoy and Nate Allen Smith who both know how to strike a sultry pose.  The video’s majestic Oahu setting almost gives the three pretty people of Shalamar Reloaded a run for their money. 

But the video’s showstopper is when the gloriously shirtless McCoy shows viewers just what kind of “mood” he’s in [SPOILER ALERT], as the camera pulls back to reveal his hot, tattooed male bedmate just before the two of them join an equally sexy woman in the shower.  And the shower door closes.

Do your thing, Rosero.  Hot.  HOT.  HAWT!

A brutha could use a little warning before he gets hit with all of that in the middle of the workday.  I almost scheduled a pregnancy test.  It is quite simply one of the sexiest music videos I’ve ever seen.  After watching it (three times), I got up and took a cool shower.  Literally.   

happydaysWatley has insisted for over a year now that Shalamar is “Reloaded,” but if you ask me, the group is actually cocked and ready to shoot.

Each of the members of Shalamar Reloaded had a little something to say as the single and video’s being released.

“I thought it would be cool if we had a groove that had a classic 90s vibe mixed with something contemporary and of course classic soul with a fresh spin on in,” said Smith, who cowrote the song.   “I came up with the idea in the shower, while we were doing concerts in Japan.”

The idea came to him in the shower.  What is it about Shalamar and showers??

“Nate and his friend Ben Selvey wrote a great, feel good song and that’s missing in a lot of music right now,” Watley said.  “To be able to film this video on location in Hawaii is such a gift — what an epic backdrop. My fans love seeing me being Jody Watley fabulous — so that’s what I’m giving!” 

Of the video’s plot twist, Watley coyly said “It is open to interpretation.” 

McCoy, who also directed the video, brings it all home. 

“I wanted everyone to understand Jody’s vision for Shalamar Reloaded,” he said.  “A group that stands on its own.  Yes, we are inspired by a group that once was but we live in the now and we are excited about the opportunity to create new stuff and make our own mark.”

Uh, Rosero…trust:  your group’s mark has been made.   But what of that EPIC shower scene?!?

“The shower scene is who I am as someone who appreciates the beauty of both women and men,” he said. 

Click here to watch “The Mood” and if you have a pulse, you’ll feel it just like I did! 

If “The Mood” is a harbinger of what the group’s new Bridges LP will be like, I can’t wait for its early 2017 release! 

This  blog was written by freelance writer Michael P Coleman. Connect with him at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP 

 

by Michael P Coleman

Superstar Jody Watley personifies the word “diva”…but not in any of the more negative ways in which we’ve come to associate the word.  I spoke with her for the first time earlier this year, as she prepared for a series of concerts with her group, Shalamar Reloaded, which she founded last year with Nate Allen Smith and Rosero McCoy.  I was delighted to find her open, accessible, friendly, very funny, and extremely positive about moving forward. 

jodywatleydisco300I had to ask Watley about some of the controversy I’d been reading about regarding the prospect of her reuniting with two of her former Shalamar bandmates, Howard Hewitt and Jeffrey Daniel.  Together, the three of them released some of the greatest R & B classics ever recorded, remarkably over the span of just four years.  After Watley left the group in 1983, she took a brief pause before launching her solo career with her defiant, Grammy winning “Looking For A New Love.”  After her smash self-titled debut solo album, Watley hasn’t looked back…

…but many of her fans have.  Incessantly.  They repeatedly have clamored for a reunion with Hewitt and Daniel, and often fans — along with her former bandmates — blamed Watley for the reunion never taking place.  Earlier this year, Watley told me that while she has remained cordial with Hewitt and Daniel, and that she occasionally looks back at her early years with Shalamar, she wasn’t interested in revisiting it. 

“I’m always stepping out of my own shoes,” Watley reflected, “and I try not to get tangled up in my own history.  That’s what keeps it fresh for me.” 

“When people say they want a reunion, they’re really saying they want to relive a moment in their own lives,” the legend continued.  "They’re not really thinking about anything else.  They want to go back in the Wayback Machine, and I think that’s so uninspired and boring.  Shalamar Reloaded is not trying to erase or compete with the past.  I wanted to create a new group, and that’s what I’ve done with Nate and Rosero.” 

by Michael P Coleman

Some of my fondest memories of my eldest daughter growing up are the times we shared with Harry Potter.  And it wasn’t just Harry:  Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore, Draco, Snape, and of course Volde…oops…HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED were all a part of a wonderful shared reading experience between the two of us. 

IMG 5815JK Rowling’s wizard world created a publishing phenomenon that we hadn’t seen in generations.  Pre-orders for the novels broke records worldwide.  I remember one day at the airport, waiting for a connection, and noticing almost everyone at my gate was reading a copy of the almost 900 page Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  People lined up by the thousands at bookstores to count down to a midnight release of each novel.  Many of those fans dressed up as their favorite characters for the events, and I will admit to attending one or two of them myself.  (No, I didn’t dress up…but I wanted to.) 

My daughter’s all grown up now (sniff), but I felt a tinge of excitement last spring when I read that an eighth tale in the series, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, was on the way.  I wondered whether the fervor would continue, almost 10 years after the publication of the last novel.  Also, this 8th installment was to be a “script book”, not a traditional novel, and while based on a story by Rowling, it wouldn’t be written by her.  I wondered whether kids (of all ages) would still have a hunger for Harry. 

I hadn’t pre-ordered a copy, but as last Saturday’s sun set, I could resist heading over to Barnes & Noble at Arden Fair in Sacramento.  Simply put, the store was a glorious, packed to the gills madhouse.  I’d say Harry’s back, but I’m not sure he ever left.  Literally hundreds of people — of all ages — were in the store two hours before the book went on sale, and dozens of others joined us before midnight when an announcement was made and a riotous cheer erupted throughout the store.  Literally. 

Barnes & Noble manager Erik Stevens said he wasn’t surprised by the level of excitement about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

“This crowd is very similar in size to our last midnight release event,” Stevens told me.  “That said, this title set pre-order records for us.  We’ve ordered additional copies, so tonight, everyone will get a book.”

IMG 5803That was great news for me, as I stood there with my little yellow numbered ticket, which gave me a place in line after the hundreds of red ticket-holders who’d preorder the book. 

While I waited, I wondered what was behind the enduring appeal of these characters. 

“There’s a lot of heart in these stories,” Stevens continued.  “Some of these young parents were kids who read the books as they were growing up.  And many of these parents read the books themselves to their kids years ago.  One customer told me that for her, the memories of these release parties is a part of her association with the stories, so she wanted to recapture a little of that excitement at tonight’s event.”

That customer was in the right place Saturday night.  Barnes & Noble hosted Harry Potter trivia games and other events during the evening, and there were Harrys, Snapes, Hermiones, and a Volde…a HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED or two in the crowd.  In case customers had left their costumes behind, an assortment of wands and even a Sorting Hat was on sale! 

While Jacynth Bucknor from New York wasn’t in costume for the event, she was waiting as anxiously as the rest of us for the clock to strike midnight.   The vacationing mom was picking up the book for her 18 year old son. 

“He’s been reading Harry Potter books for a long time,” Bucknor remembered.  “He started reading at about six or seven.  When he started reading the first one, I picked it up because I wanted to know what he was reading, and I really liked it.  I loved Rowling’s creativity.  She grabs your attention, and makes you want to read more.”

If you’ve got the hankering to read more, you’ll be in good company with the millions who’ve picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child since its release last weekend.  Over two million copies were sold during the first 48 hours after its release, and the book’s on track to be the best seller of 2016, so it’s safe to call it another blockbuster.  The stage production is playing to a sold out house in London well into 2017, and Rowling hopes to bring it to other countries worldwide. 

IMG 5809I’ll wrap up reading the new book this weekend, and without giving anything away, I’ll say that, for me, the magic’s back.  Set about twenty years after the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it’s great to see Harry, Hermione and Ron raising their kids, who more than continue the traditional of magical mischief.  And I’ll also say that, you know, if Harry’s there, Volde…HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED can’t be far behind. 

Also, if you’re a fan, this may really be our last shot at Harry.  Rowling has said that with Cursed Child, Harry’s story is finished. 

So grab a book, settle into your favorite chair, and take another trip to Hogwarts! 

Pick up a copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at Barnes & Noble or retail everywhere. 

 

This blog was written by freelance writer Michael P Coleman.  What he DIDN’T tell you was he bought a replica of Harry Potter’s wand, complete with illuminating tip, at Barnes & Noble, and he’s used the “Lumos!” spell every night this week in his living room.  Swear to God.  Follow him on Twitter — and pray for him.  

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I wear my hair in a natural style called Sisterlocks. The style affords me great flexibility with my natural hair.  It has also grown to be quite long. For a black woman this garners me a lot of attention. I have been stopped countless times by men and women who were astounded that as a black woman I have been able to grow my natural tresses below my mid back.

Most often I am asked is all of that my real hair. The looks I receive are ones of astonishment and awe. With joy I share a resounding YES! This is all MY hair! Recently I was stopped at the gym by an elderly black woman with the same questions and with the same look of admiration and astonishment. I began to explore within myself her looks of astonishment, awe and admiration along with my own sense of joy. After all, it’s just hair. Or is it?

For many black women the decision to wear our hair natural versus processed has been a real struggle.  Our own natural coifs if not of a certain texture deemed to be “good” were not seen as a thing of beauty. For many our hair was a source of shame. The heart of the shame was the belief that we were inferior. Our hair diminished our value. If we couldn’t grow long silky or loosely coiled hair then we were not as valuable as other women, black or otherwise, that could. I as a woman with very tightly coiled kinks would have been labeled and categorized as having nappy or “bad” hair.

For the complete article, visit HuffingtonPost.com/Blog/Voices.

Anitra Rice can be followed on Facebook: www.facebook.com/Valueawakenings

Reach out to her on her website: www.valueawakenings.com